The Seven Diverse Types of Written Music

As a bassist, bandleader, teacher, and music copyist, I’ve worked with hundreds of singers throughout the years. Even though working musicians know hundreds of tunes, singers will need to have fantastic charts in order to have their music played the way they want. I define a “great chart” as a piece of written music that correctly tells the musicians what they need to play.

Written music comes in seven simple types: chord charts, sheet music, songbooks, lead sheets, fake books, master rhythm charts and fully notated parts.

As a musician has a duty to play the chart before him appropriately, the supplier of the chart has the duty of providing the appropriate kind of chart. Knowing what variety of chart to use for what kind of tune or gig is incredibly important.

This report explains what the different types of charts are, and below what circumstances to use them. I hope you come across it useful.

Varieties OF CHARTS

Charts can be very simple or elaborate according to the style of music and kind of gig. Cover tunes are traditionally learned from recordings classical and choral music can be identified in sheet music shops as effectively as in many music catalogs various tunes will be located in music books of all kinds and several public libraries carry recordings and written music for your use.

The word “chart” refers to any piece of written music or any arrangement (music that has been adapted in a exceptional manner) of a tune. Decades ago it was strictly a “cool” slang term for a tune, but any piece of music could be referred to as a chart these days, although a classical buff may well not refer to a Mozart function as a “chart.”

Realizing what variety of chart to use for what kind of tune is incredibly significant. When you are playing a gig and someone hands you a chart — it is what it is and you either read it well or not. But, if you get charts, have them produced for you or give them your self, you require to know which types to use for which conditions. Years back, when performing singer showcases, singers brought in all kinds of charts: fantastic ones, undesirable ones, incorrect ones, inappropriate ones, and it was a actual pain. The singers who supplied the correct sorts of charts got their music played the way they wanted. The singers who had the incorrect types of charts didn’t, and weren’t extremely pleased about it. Unless a musician currently knows the particular components, he can only play according to what’s on the chart ahead of him. Though a great musician can improvise a excellent element in any style, if a distinct musical line wants to be played, it requirements to be written out.

As a musician has a duty to appropriately play the chart just before him, the supplier of the chart has the duty of offering an suitable one.

Without obtaining into also many music notation specifics, right here are the distinct sorts of charts and when they are made use of:


A chord chart consists of the chords, meter (how the song is counted, e.g., in four or in 3 (like a waltz), and the kind of the song (the precise order of the sections). This variety of chart is mainly utilised when: 1. the precise musical parts are improvised or already identified, but the kind and chords have to have to be referred to, two. to present chords to improvise over, or three. when a final-minute chart requirements to be written, and there isn’t time for something much more elaborate.

A chord chart does not contain the melody or any specific instrumental components to be played. To play from very simple chord charts a musician essentially wants to have steady time, know the chords, and improvise his aspect in whatever style the tune is in.


Sheet music is a retailer-purchased version of a song printed by a publisher, which consists of the instrumental element, chords, lyrics, melody and kind. An instrumental piece will, of course, have just the music. Sheet music is written for both piano and guitar. Guitar sheet music is in standard notation (generally classical), as well as in TAB. A great piece of sheet music will always say whether it really is for piano or guitar. Most sheet music is not meant to be entirely representative of the actual recording, and the actual arrangement that you have heard on a recording is seldom present.

Many men and women have experienced the aggravation of finding the sheet music to a song they like, playing it, and discovering that the chords are various from the recording, and from time to time the form is as well. However that is the way it is a lot, and it could be for a number of distinctive reasons. To get the exact arrangement and chords, you require to do a “takedown” of the song: study it by ear. A takedown is when you listen to a piece of music and write it down. Takedowns can range from very simple chord charts to elaborate orchestral parts or something in in between. In order to do good takedowns, you want to have superior ears, fully grasp and be fluid with music notation to the complexity of the form of music you happen to be operating with, and preferably comprehend music (the a lot more the greater). Obtaining “very good ears” consists of recognizing and understanding the music, whether heard on the radio, played by a further musician, or heard in your head.


Christabel’s are compilations of several tunes and usually contain the similar information that sheet music does, along with the chords and arrangement getting various from the recording most of the time. Sheet music usually has complete introductions and endings, whereas songbook tunes are normally shortened to develop space in the book for extra tunes. Sheet music is normally written to be played on a keyboard, but songbooks come in various styles and for distinct instruments. They are compiled by artist, style, decade, and in numerous collections such as movie themes, Broadway hits, and so forth.

Songbooks are a good reference source when other, a lot more exact charts are unavailable. For example: I needed two film themes for a gig as soon as (client request). Rather of spending $8 for two tunes of sheet music, I purchased a book of film themes for $16 that contained over a hundred tunes. Sheet music and songbooks are pretty unusable at gigs mainly because of cumbersome page turns and bulkiness but in an emergency you use them and do what you can. If obtaining to use sheet music or songbooks for reside efficiency, either: 1. recopy the tune onto 1-three pages or two. photocopy it and tape the pages together (even though, strictly speaking, this may be considered copyright infringement). Make confident to often supply a copy for every single musician.

To play from songbooks and sheet music, a musician wants to be in a position to read the music notation, or at least improvise a element from the chord symbols, i.e., a guitar strum, bass groove, piano groove, and so forth., or superior however, both. A vocalist can sing the words if they know the melody, or be capable to study the notated melody if they never know it.


Lead sheets contain the chords, lyrics and melody line of the song and are mostly used by singers, accompanists and arrangers, although they appear on the bandstand now and once more. Songwriters use lead sheets to copyright their songs, and pretty often sheet music involves a lead sheet of the tune as a condensed version to use. As an alternative of getting 3 to six pages of sheet music to turn, a lead sheet is normally one particular or two pages extended. Lead sheets do not include any music notation except the melody and chords, so a musician needs to know how to improvise when reading from one. A lead sheet is typically written out by a music copyist, who is an individual who specializes in preparing written music. Playing from lead sheets minimally calls for playing an accompaniment from the chords and understanding the form directions and symbols (the markings telling you to go to the verse or the chorus or the finish, etc.) and maximally obtaining excellent accompaniment capabilities and reading notation fluidly.